September 30

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

“Being much importuned by sundry young men of the carpenter’s business …”

Pennsylvania Gazette (September 27, 1770).

Thomas Nevell was “one of colonial Philadelphia’s most prominent master builders, according to curator Erin Kuykendall Thomas of the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art.  Nevell “designed and constructed significant public and private buildings, from the classically inspired Georgian mansion Mount Pleasant to the utilitarian cabinetmaking shop of Benjamin Randolph” (an artisan famous among early American advertising enthusiasts for his ornate trade card).  Yet in the eyes of architectural historians, Nevell deserves acclaim for another accomplishment.  His “unique contribution to his profession,” in the words of Carl G. Karsh, “was the city’s – and probably the nation’s – first architecture school.”

Karsh locates the origins of Nevell’s instruction in “a lengthy advertisement which doubles as syllabus for Nevell’s new venture,” published in the October 31, 1771, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.  He originally taught lessons in his, but the school was so successful that Nevell built a two-story classroom behind the house in 1772.  By that time, Nevell had opened his academy for at least two seasons.  An advertisement in the September 27, 1770, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette announced that he “sundry young men of the carpenter’s business” convinced him to offer lessons.  Classes were scheduled to begin on October 1 and continue through the end of March.  Just as he would do the following fall, he provided an overview of the material covered, including “the most useful problems in geometry,” “the most easy and ready method of describing brackets for plaistered cornices and coverings,” and “a new and concise method to form the diminution of columns, dividing and gauging the flutes and fillets of either columns or pilasters.”  Pupils could expect that many of these lessons would require hands-on work rather than attending lectures.  They “will be reduced to practice in miniature,” Nevell stated.

Nevell charged ten shillings as an initial entrance fee and then twenty shilling per month for as long as students continued to attend the school.  He offered lessons “from 6 to 9 o’clock at night” three evenings each week.  The following year, he extended the numbers of nights he offered instruction to four each week, but tuition remained the same.

Operating the school likely further enhanced Nevell’s reputation as a master builder.  He claimed that he offered lessons “with some reluctance” after “being much importuned” by younger men who wanted to learn the trade and who recognized and respected his work.  Although Nevell did not make appeals directly to prospective clients in his advertisement for his new school, he may have expected that notifying the public of this new enterprise would further enhance his standing as one of the most skilled artisans in Philadelphia.

September 29

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Massachusetts Spy (September 29, 1770).

“LISBON LEMONS … to be sold at the Sign of the Basket of Lemons.”

The selection of advertisements for the Adverts 250 Project is contingent on which newspapers were published on a particular day 250 years ago.  On some days that means far more advertisements to choose among than others.  Consider the publication schedule of most newspapers in the fall of 1770.  Most newspapers were weeklies; printers distributed a new issue once a week.  For instance, John Carter published the Providence Gazette on Saturdays in 1770.  (The corresponding dates fall on Tuesdays in 2020.)  Isaiah Thomas’s Massachusetts Spy, published three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, was the one exception.

Some days were more popular than others.  Most printers chose Mondays or Thursdays to distribute new issues, though at least one newspaper was published somewhere in the colonies on every day of the week except Sundays.  Mondays saw the publication and distribution of the Boston Evening-Post, the Boston-Gazette, the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Post-Boy, the Newport Mercury, the New-York Gazette and Weekly Mercury, and the New-York Gazette or Weekly Post-Boy.  A similar number of newspapers were published in Annapolis, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Williamsburg on Thursdays.  An array of advertising appeared in those newspapers, sometimes overflowing the standard issues into supplements distributed simultaneously.

In contrast, the Massachusetts Spy and the Providence Gazette were the only newspapers printed on Tuesdays.  The Providence Gazette featured a moderate amount of advertising in 1770, but the Massachusetts Spy was a new publication, founded a few months earlier, and Thomas had not yet cultivated a clientele of advertisers for his new enterprise.  An advertisement for “LISBON LEMONS … to be sold at the Sign of the Basket of Lemons” in the September 29 edition was the first paid notice to appear in the Massachusetts Spy over the course of many issues.

In combination with the uneven distribution of newspaper publication throughout the week in 1770, that scarcity of advertisements in some newspapers and abundance in others shapes the Adverts 250 Project.  Some newspapers and towns perhaps receive too much attention and others not enough.  Recall, however, that printers did not published newspapers on Sundays.  This allows for a correction.  On days in 2020 that with no “new” newspapers from the corresponding days in 1770, the Adverts 250 Project features advertisements from any time during the previous week.  Strictly adhering to an “On This Day” format has consequences for which advertisements become part of the project, but a slight revision to the methodology in recognition of printing practices in the 1770s allows for a more representative sampling of advertisements, newspapers, and places of publication.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 29, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  Luke DiCicco

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Sep 29 1770 - Providence Gazette Slavery 1
Providence Gazette (September 29, 1770).

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Sep 29 1770 - Providence Gazette Slavery 2
Providence Gazette (September 29, 1770).

September 28

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 205 years ago today?

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 28, 1770).

This Paper compleats the 14th Year since its first Publication.”

Daniel Fowle and Robert Fowle, the printers of the New-Hampshire Gazette, made the usual updates to the masthead for the September 28, 1770, edition.  It included the full title, The New-Hampshire Gazette, and Historical Chronicle, and advised readers that it “CONTAIN[ED] the Freshest ADVICES FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC.”  A woodcut depicting a lion and unicorn, symbols of the United Kingdom, appeared in the center, along with the initials G.R. for George Rex, the king.  Despite tensions with Parliament due to the Townshend Acts and other abuses, colonists continued to identify as members of the British Empire loyal to George III.  Like most other newspapers printed in the colonies, the volume and issue number also adorned the masthead.  The September 28 edition was part of “VOL. XIV.”  The Fowles listed the issue as “NUM. 728” and, unlike most other printers, explained that number indicated how many “Weeks since this Paper was first Publish’d.”  They added one additional item to the masthead to mark a milestone in the history of the newspaper’s publication.  “This PAPER compleats the fourteenth Year of” the New-Hampshire Gazette, that notation informed readers.

The Fowles noted this milestone elsewhere in the issue as well.  Those “Freshest ADVICES” included advertisements that delivered news and other information, among them notices from the printers.  The Fowles gave their advertisement a privileged place, positioning first among the advertisements and immediately following the shipping news from the customs house.  “As this Paper compleats the 14th Year since its first Publication,” the Fowles addressed readers, “it is desir’d, that those who are in Arrears, would pay off immediately, that it may be determin’d, whether it will be worth while to send any more to those who are so very delinquent.”  The Fowles simultaneously celebrated their accomplishment and an important milestone in the history of their newspaper while also warning subscribers who had not paid their bills to remedy the situation or they would not receive additional issues on credit.  The end of one year and the start of another was a good opportunity for the Fowles to settle accounts and make sure all was in order.

New-Hampshire Gazette (September 28, 1770).

September 27

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

“Some Thousand Pairs of NEGRO SHOES.”

Simon Berwick and John Berwick had a variety of customers in mind when they advertised “MEN’s SHOES and PUMPS” in the September 27, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina Gazette.  They began their advertisement with footwear intended for white colonists, proclaiming that these shoes were “made in the neatest Manner” and cost fifty shillings per pair.  They also stocked “A great Quantity of strong black Shoes and Pumps” that cost between twenty-five and forty shillings.  The Berwicks presented those shoes “for House-Negroes and others.”  The “others” presumably included white colonists from more humble backgrounds than the customers who would purchase the more expensive shoes that led the advertisement.  The Berwicks also had in stock “some Thousand Pairs of NEGRO SHOES” that they described as “all fresh, and equal to any made in the Province.”

Were enslaved artisans involved in the production of these shoes?  Did the Berwicks enslave others who did not make shoes?  The answers to those questions are not apparent from their advertisement.  Yet the answers make little difference when it comes to disentangling the Berwicks from the commercial and economic web of slavery in the eighteenth-century Atlantic world.  They pitched their advertisement to enslavers who need to outfit the men, women, and children they held in bondage.  They provided moderately-priced shoes for “House-Negroes” who would be seen by enslavers and their guests as well as less expensive “NEGRO SHOES” for those who labored beyond the house and thus relatively out of sight.  The Berwicks did not have to have enslaved people making shoes in their workshop or otherwise serving them in order to reap the benefits of slavery.  Instead, a significant portion of their business revolved around provisioning enslavers.  They sold shoes, while others, like Henry Rugeley, advertised “NEGRO CLOTH,” a rough and inexpensive fabric intended for clothing for enslaved people.  The business model developed by the Berwicks depended on enslavers engaging them as customers.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 27, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  Luke DiCicco

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Sep 27 1770 - Maryland Gazette Slavery 1
Maryland Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter Slavery 1
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter Slavery 2
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter Slavery 3
Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News-Letter (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - New-York Journal Slavery 1
New-York Journal (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - New-York Journal Slavery 2
New-York Journal (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 1
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Pennsylvania Gazette Slavery 2
Pennsylvania Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 1
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 2
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 3
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 4
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 5
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 6
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 7
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 8
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - South-Carolina Gazette Slavery 9
South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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South-Carolina Gazette (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Purdie & Dixon Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Purdie and Dixon] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 1
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 2
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 3
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 4
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 27, 1770).

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Sep 27 1770 - Virginia Gazette Rind Slavery 5
Virginia Gazette [Rind] (September 27, 1770).

Welcome, Guest Curator Luke DiCicco

Luke DiCicco is a senior with a double major in History and Political Science at Assumption University. East Bridgewater, Massachusetts, is his home town. His main historical interests include the World Wars and the history of Europe, but he is always eager to learn about anything related to history. He is a member of the Honors Program as well as a resident assistant. He is involved in the Campus Activities Board, Best Buddies, and Student Government Association. He is also an Admissions Ambassador. He has gone on SEND trips to both Washington, DC, and Delaware during spring break in 2018 and 2019. He has previously served as guest curator for the Adverts 250 Project and the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he enrolled in HIS 359 – Revolutionary America in Spring 2019. He conducted the research for his current contributions as guest curator for the Slavery Adverts 250 Project when he was enrolled in HIS 400 – Research Methods: Vast Early America in Spring 2020.

Welcome, guest curator Luke DiCicco.

September 26

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

South-Carolina and American General Gazette (September 24, 1770).

“Sundry other Articles, allowed to be imported by the Resolutions.”

Several merchants and shopkeepers placed lengthy advertisements in the September 24, 1770, edition of the South-Carolina and American General Gazette.  Alexander Gillon’s advertisement on the front page listed dozens of items for sale, as did Isaac Motte’s advertisement.  Elsewhere in the newspaper, Benjamin Mathewes, Thomas Walter, and Radcliffe and Shepheard all ran similar notices.  In addition to “mens fine beaver hats,” “bordered handkerchiefs,” “gold and silver basket buttons,” “parrot and bird cages,” and a variety of other items that he did name in his advertisement, Mathewes also indicated that he had in stock “a number of other article[s] needless to enumerate.”  The purpose of enumerating so many of them was to demonstrate to consumers the wide array of choices available to them.  Like their counterparts who advertised in other newspapers in other towns and cities, these merchants and shopkeepers sought to incite demand by inviting prospective customers to imagine the many and varied options available to them.

Not all advertisers took this approach, but that did not mean that their notices lacked appeals meant to engage consumers.  In the same issue, Robert Porteous and Company and William and James Carsans placed advertisements that asserted they offered a similar array of choices without listing their inventory.  Porteous and Company stated that they sold “AN Assortment of such GOODS as are allowed by the Resolutions,” while the Carsanses similarly promoted textiles, nails, and “sundry other Articles, allowed to be imported by the Resolutions.”  Both incorporated consumer choice yet placed as much emphasis on the circumstances of acquiring their merchandise.  The merchants and traders in South Carolina adopted “Resolutions” or nonimportation agreements to protest the duties on certain imported goods imposed by the Townshend Acts.  Some items, however, were excluded from those resolutions.  Porteous and Company and the Carsanses assured prospective customers and the general public that they abided by the agreement, keeping themselves in good standing in the community.  Their marketing efforts addressed politics as well as consumer choice.

September 25

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Connecticut Courant (September 25, 1770).

“My Husband has attempted by an Advertisement to ruin my Character.”

Advertisements warning against extending credit to runaway wives were a standard feature in American newspapers in the eighteenth century.  The one that Benoni Griffen, Jr., inserted in the September 10, 1770, edition of the Connecticut Courant resembled so many others that appeared in newspapers from New England to Georgia.  “Whereas Martha the Wife of me the Subscriber,” Griffen proclaimed, “hath for some Tome past, behaved herself in a very Disorderly Manner, by endeavouring to run me in Debt, THESE are Therefore to want all Persons not to Trust of Credit her on my Account, as I will pay no Debt she may Contract after this Date.”  Like Griffen’s notice, most advertisements concerning runaway wives did not provide further details about the alleged “Disorderly” conduct.

Most also did not garner a response.  Usually husbands had the last and only word in the public prints.  Yet Martha objected to how Benoni described her to friends, acquaintances, and strangers in the pages of the Connecticut Courant. She inserted her own advertisement, more than twice the length of his, to set the record straight.  Martha accused Benoni of attempting to “ruin my Character,” but she asserted that she could “produce the fullest Proof that my Conduct has been prudent and blameless, especially with Respect of running my Husband in Debt.”  Furthermore, she had a very different tale to tell about which spouse had treated the other poorly.  Martha complained that Benoni’s “Temper and Conduct and Disposition has been extremely Ill.”  Indeed, he had abandoned her and “a Family of small Children” more than once.  During his most recent escapade, he had been away for almost two years, leaving Martha and the children “in bad Circumstances.”  When he finally appeared again was not a free man but instead “a bound Servant.”  Martha found it irritating that Benoni warned against extending credit to her on his behalf because she and her father had so often paid off his debts.  Benoni’s shenanigans became so notorious that the town’s selectmen intervened.

Martha did not expect that Benoni’s advertisement had influence anyone who actually knew the couple.  “[W]here he and I are known,” she stated, “‘tis beyond his Power to injure my Character.”  Yet not all readers knew Martha and Benoni.  It was for the benefit of “Strangers” that she ran her own advertisement to dispute her husband’s version of events.  He used the public prints to defame her.  In turn, she inserted an advertisement in the same newspaper to defend her reputation.  Martha and other women who absconded from their husbands and became subjects of newspaper advertisements asserted their will in a manner considered unbecoming of their sex, further compounding any offenses they supposedly committed within their households.  Martha’s challenges to her husband’s authority, however, did not end there.  She continued to exercise her own will, publishing an advertisement that portrayed Benoni as an unsavory character incapable of fulfilling his responsibilities as husband and head of the household.

Slavery Advertisements Published September 25, 1770

GUEST CURATOR:  AJ Crawford

The Slavery Adverts 250 Project chronicles the role of newspaper advertising in perpetuating slavery in the era of the American Revolution. The project seeks to reveal the ubiquity of slavery in eighteenth-century life from New England to Georgia by republishing advertisements for slaves – for sale, wanted to purchase, runaways, captured fugitives – in daily digests on this site as well as in real time via the @SlaveAdverts250 Twitter feed, utilizing twenty-first-century media to stand in for the print media of the eighteenth century.

The project aims to provide modern audiences with a sense of just how often colonists encountered these advertisements in their daily lives. Enslaved men, women, and children appeared in print somewhere in the colonies almost every single day. Those advertisements served as a constant backdrop for social, cultural, economic, and political life in colonial and revolutionary America. Colonists who did not own slaves were still confronted with slavery as well as invited to maintain the system by purchasing slaves or assisting in the capture of runaways. The frequency of these newspaper advertisements suggests just how embedded slavery was in colonial and revolutionary American culture in everyday interactions beyond the printed page.

These advertisements also testify to the experiences of enslaved men, women, and children, though readers must consider that those experiences have been remediated through descriptions offered by slaveholders rather than the slaves themselves. Often unnamed in the advertisements, enslaved men, women, and children were not invisible or unimportant in early America.

These advertisements appeared in colonial American newspapers 250 years ago today.

Sep 25 1770 - Connecticut Courant Slavery 1
Connecticut Courant (September 25, 1770).

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Sep 25 1770 - Essex Gazette Slavery 1
Essex Gazette (September 25, 1770).